Katherine Zagone - 2007 Program Participant

Katherine exploring the pyramids of Giza by camel!
Katherine exploring the pyramids of Giza by camel!

What made you choose Semester at Sea, a multi-country program?

I've always been passionate about different healing techniques. I chose Semester at Sea because I wanted to get a taste of a number of countries so I could explore various cultural healing modalities on one trip. I also wanted to live on a ship, because, well, it's awesome. Semester at Sea allowed me the structure to get the experience and knowledge I craved without planning and paying for multiple trips. 

What was your favorite port destination when not at sea?

Dubrovnik, Croatia was my favorite location. I really resonated with the fairytale-like walled city. I also got to visit a Croatian home in the mountains where we had homemade cheese, wine, bread, and danced with a local family.

Looking back, what are some things you would have done differently to share with future Semester at Sea participants?

I wish I would have prepared a bit more for the countries. I tended to wing it and had a fantastic experience, but there were a few things I wish I would have planned for since tickets were required or cost could have been reduced. I also learned a ton while on the ship. I also wished I would've budgeted better so I had more money for the last few countries. I would have also bought less stuff. All the souvenirs I bought were fantastic, but not really necessary.

What was your most unusual or unique experience through Semester at Sea?

The most unusual experience was walking into the desert in Cairo at 4:00 a.m. to watch the sunrise over the pyramids. As three women we found a random Egyptian man who spoke English at a stable at 4:00 a.m. and got him to rent us horses and guide us into the desert. Probably not the safest idea, but we are alive and it was an incredible experience.

How did you deal with homesickness while abroad?

I felt homesick a number of times, mostly while we were at sea. Being so busy probably minimized that experience. I allowed myself to feel the sadness and longing, knowing it reflected my love for my family and my "normal" life. I allowed the homesickness to be part of the journey. I did call my family when I felt I needed to or wanted and sometimes that helped and sometimes that made it worse. I didn't miss out on anything because of it, and I think it enhanced the experience of being alive, of feeling deeply.

What are the top three reasons you'd return to a Semester at Sea?

I fully intend on going back on Semester at Sea either as a Lifelong Learner or possibly as faculty. I'd love to teach a world medicine class on the ship. Here's why I want to go back: (3) This program attracts amazing people, (2) The program was incredibly well run, (1) The intensity and density of experiences cannot be matched!

What was the biggest takeaway from your Semester at Sea?

As a naturopathic doctor, I am able to integrate the cultural healing ways that I observed and absorbed into my patient care. Not only do I bridge the gap between conventional medicine and alternative medicine, but because of Semester at Sea I am able to embody the cultural essence when I use those "alternative" techniques. I have a deeper respect for the healers and doctors of all cultures and a profound understanding of the similarities of healing philosophies around the world.

Not only has the trip affected my career, but I'm still best friends with some of the girls I met on SAS. We just had our seventh annual reunion. Each year we have met in a different city in the US and I'm so proud of us for maintaining our connection despite living awesomely enriching (busy) lives in different parts of the country. They are my soul SASters :)